Monday, December 11, 2017

Excerpts from DH Lawrence's essay 'The Crown' (1915)

There are two eternities fighting the fight of Creation, the light projecting itself into the darkness, the darkness enveloping herself within the embrace of light. And then there is the consummation of each in the other, the consummation of light in darkness and darkness in light, which is absolute: our bodies cast up like foam of two meeting waves, but foam which is absolute, complete, beyond the limitations of either infinity, consummate over other eternities.The direct opposites of Beginning and End, by their very directness, imply their own supreme relation. And this supreme relation is made absolute in the clash and the foam of meeting waves. And the clash and the foam are the Crown, the absolute.

The lion and the unicorn are not fighting for the Crown. They are fighting beneath it. And the Crown is upon their fight. If they made friends and lay down side by side, the Crown would fall on them both and kill them. If the lion really beat the unicorn, then the Crown pressing on the head of the king of beasts alone would destroy him. Which it has done and is doing. As it is destroying the unicorn who has achieved supremacy in another field.....

The crown is the perfect balance of the fight, it is not the fruit of either victory. The  crown is not the prize of either combatant. It is the raison d'etre of both. It is the absolute within the fight. And those alone are evil who say, "the lion shall lie down with the lamb, the eagle shall mate with the dove, the lion shall munch in the stall of the unicorn." For they blaspheme against the raison d'etre of all life, they try to destroy the essential, intrinsic nature of God.

But it is the fight of opposites which is holy. The fight of like things is evil. For if a thing turn round upon itself in blind frenzy of destruction, this is to say: "The lamb shall roar like the lion, the dove strike down her prey like the eagle, and the unicorn shall devour the innocent virgin in her path". Which is precisely the equivalent blasphemy to the blasphemy of universal meekness, or peace.

And this, this last, is our blasphemy of the war. We would have the lamb roar like the lion, all doves turn into eagles.

Power is sheer flame, and spirit is sheer flame, and between them is the clue of the Holy Ghost. But David put a false clue between them: the clue of his own ego, cunning and triumphant.

It is unfertility of spirit which sends man raging to the woman, and sends him raging away again, unsatisfied. It is not woman's barrenness: it is his own. it is sterility in himself which makes a Don Juan.

And the course of the barren spirit is dogmatically to assert One God, One Way, One Glory, one exclusive salvation. And this One God is indeed God, this One Way is the way, but it is the way of egoism, and the One God is the reflection, inevitably, of the worshiper's ego.

This is the sham Crown, which the victorious lion and the victorious unicorn alike puts on his own head. When either triumphs, the true Crown disappears, and the triumphant puts a false crown on his own head: the crown of sterile egoism. The true crown is above the fight itself, and above the embrace itself, not upon the brow of either fighter or lover. Or, if you like, in the true fight it shines equally upon the brow of the defeated and the winner. For sometimes, it is blessed to be beaten in a fight.

He who triumphs perishes. As Caesar perished, and Napoleon. In the fight they were wonderful, and the power was with them. But when they would be supreme, sheer triumphers, exalted in their own ego, then they fell. Triumph is a false absolution, the winner salutes his enemy, and the light of victory on both their brows, since both are consummated.

In the same way, Jesus, triumphant perished. And individual who will triumph, in love or in war, perishes. There is no triumph. There is but consummation in either case.

So Shelley also perishes. He wants to be love triumphant, as Napoleon wanted to be power triumphant. Both fell.

In both, there is the spuriousness of the ego trying to seize the Crown that belongs only to the consummation....

Take care of asserting any absolute, either of power or love, of empire or democracy. The moment power triumphs, it becomes spurious with sheer egoism, like Caesar and Napoleon. And the moment democracy triumphs, it too becomes hideous with egoism, like Russia now....

The true crown is upon the consummation itself, not upon the triumph of one over another, neither in love nor in power. The ego is the false absolute. And the ego crowned with the crown is the monster and the tyrant, whether it represent one man, an Emperor, or a whole mass of people, a Demos. A million egos summed up under a crown are not better than one individual crowned ego. They are a million times worse.



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